After 4,450 yards on 382 completions with 24 touchdowns — as well as 229 carries for 1,224 rushing yards with 19 touchdowns — over 27 games, Riley Leonard’s career at Duke has come …
After 4,450 yards on 382 completions with 24 touchdowns — as well as 229 carries for 1,224 rushing yards with 19 touchdowns — over 27 games, Riley Leonard’s career at Duke has come to a close.
The former Fairhope Pirate quarterback announced on social media Wednesday evening that he entered the NCAA transfer portal with one season of eligibility remaining.
Leonard reportedly entered with a “no contact,” tag which likely meant he already knew his destination upon arrival. Other reports linked the quarterback to finding his new home at either Notre Dame or Auburn.
Duke Blue Devil head coach Mike Elko had been announced as the next head coach of the Texas A&M Aggies two days prior to Leonard’s announcement on Monday, Nov. 27.
In his Wednesday statement, Leonard was sure to express his gratitude toward everyone on campus.
“To the Duke community — I hope I was able to make a positive impact on you as a person, and not just an athlete. You definitely have left your mark on me and have had my back ... even when I didn’t turn my homework in on time. This is a place I will bring my kids one day, that my family and I will always be grateful to call home,” Leonard wrote on Wednesday. “I chose Duke because I wanted a school where I could be around those who are the best at what they do. I knew that meant I wouldn’t be the smartest guy in the room, that every day I’d need to push myself and compete the best I could. And that’s what I did. As a result I’ve made the difficult decision to leave knowing I’m prepared for the challenges ahead — on and off the field.”
On the field as a junior, Leonard helped lead the Blue Devils to their first postseason bowl game since 2018 where he was named MVP of the Military Bowl. His completions (250), rushing touchdowns (13), total yards (3,666) and touchdowns responsible for (33) were all third-best marks in the Atlantic Coast Conference. His 63.8 completion percentage, 2,967 passing yards and 7.1 total yards per play all ranked fourth.
The 6-foot-4, 212-pound quarterback was primed for a breakout junior season but logged only 1,102 yards on 95 completions, as well as 352 rushing yards on 58 carries, over 7 games this season due to an ankle injury at the end of a loss to Notre Dame.
Earlier in the year, Leonard orchestrated an upset of No. 9 Clemson where his 44-yard touchdown run on the first possession of the second half helped set the tone. That led to the first College GameDay appearance on the Duke campus before the Blue Devils’ marquee matchup with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
At the end of the day, Leonard said it was the relationships with the people who celebrated the school’s first appearance on ESPN’s premier pregame show that he will look the most fondly on.
“I’m grateful that Duke is a place I could be myself and I’ll never take for granted all that I learned throughout my time here,” Leonard wrote on Wednesday. “Much of the credit belongs to my classmates. I have friends from all over the world, with different views and perspectives. Duke is a place that has pushed me, challenged me, and helped me grow in ways I never thought possible because of the amazing people I’ve met and relationships I’ve made. As I get ready to take the next step in my personal journey, it’s these relationships I will cherish for the rest of my life.”